Polk County feeling the pinch as jail population grows

Polk County feeling the pinch as jail population grows
(Source: Raycom images)

LIVINGSTON, Texas (KTRE) - Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said the county faces rising costs of managing the jail during the pandemic.

Murphy addressed the issue after confirming the commissioners court approved renewing a contract to take Tyler County inmates. Polk County also has ongoing contracts with the counties of Trinity, Angelina and Chambers.

Murphy said TDCJ, (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) is not accepting inmates because of COVID-19. Usually, once a person is found guilty, TDCJ collects them, but now the inmate remains in the custody of the jail and the county is stuck with the bill.

The number of overflow inmates varies on average from 10 to 20. The cost per inmate is governed by jail commission standards requiring one staff member per 48 inmates. Murphy said that for 24 hours, seven days a week coverage, six staff members are needed. When the inmate population grows to 49, six more employees are added to the county payroll.

“If you want us to hold your people that’s fine but pay us,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, weeks or months could pass before the inmate is collected by the state.

Compounding the problem, COVID-19 has forced the court system closed, and juries not to convene. TDCJ not accepting prisoners is not a problem for just Polk County or county jails, it’s a problem for those awaiting their day in court, Murphy said.

“Lady Justice has been crippled for a little while,” Murphy said.

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